Why an Israel-Hezbollah war would be far more dangerous today than the last time around | CNN (2024)

Why an Israel-Hezbollah war would be far more dangerous today than the last time around | CNN (1)

Smoke billows from the site of an Israeli airstrike on the Lebanese village of Jebbain on May 25, 2024, amid ongoing cross-border clashes between Israeli troops and Hezbollah fighters.

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“We can plunge Lebanon completely into the dark and take apart Hezbollah’s power in days,”former Israeli war cabinet member Benny Gantzdeclared Tuesdayat a conference at Reichman University inHerzliya, Israel.

It was just the latest threat from a prominent Israeli public figure against Lebanon andHezbollahas tensions flare.

It won’t be difficult for Israel to plunge Lebanon into darkness. The country’s power grid, already crippled by decades of mismanagement and the country’s economic collapse, barely functions as it is. A fewwell-aimedairstrikeswill easily finish it off.

Taking apartHezbollah’smilitary power in days, however, is a far taller task.

Since its inconclusive 2006 war with theLebanese militant group, Israel has been planning for a re-match.

Hezbollah toohas long been preparing for war.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Sheba Tel-HaShomer Medical Center on June 8, 2024 in Ramat Gan, Israel. Jack Guez/Pool/Getty Images Related article ‘Intense phase of war with Hamas about to end,’ focus to shift to Lebanon border, Netanyahu says

Its arsenal includes, according to Israeli estimates, at least 150,000 missiles and rockets. Israel estimates the group has already fired 5,000 since October, which means, asHezbollahleader Hassan Nasrallah said in a speech last week, much of its arsenal remains intact.

CNN has reported that Israeli officials have been surprised by the sophistication of themilitant group’sattacks.

These include systematic pinpoint strikes on Israel’s array of surveillance outposts along the border, shooting down high-flying top-of-the-line Israeli drones, and hits on Israel’s Iron Dome batteries and anti-dronedefenses. Perhaps the biggest surprise for Israel, however, was the nine minutes ofdrone footageHezbollahpublishedonlineof highly sensitive civilian and military infrastructure in and around the northern city of Haifa.

Highly trained and disciplined

In addition to itsweaponry, Hezbollahcanprobablyfield between 40,000 and 50,000 fighters – Nasrallah recently said more than 100,000. Many of these gained combat experience fightingalongsideregime forces in the Syria civil war.

As a fighting force,Hezbollahis highly trained and disciplined,unlike many other guerrilla groups.During the 2006war, in the experience of this correspondent, it was rare to encounter Hezbollahfighters. One day we came upon several of them in the ruins of a southern Lebanese village. They were polite but firm, devoid of boastful bluster and swagger, insisting we leave immediately for our own safety. They wouldn’t take no for an answer.

Unlike Gaza, Lebanon is not hemmed in by hostileneighbors. It has strategic depth, with friendly regimes in Syria and Iraq, allowing direct access to Iran.

Over the years Israel has regularly struck targets in Syria it believed were involved in trans-shipment of weapons toHezbollah, but all indications are those strikes have been only partially successful.

In the event of war, full-scale war, both sides will be able to inflict significant pain on the other.

Why an Israel-Hezbollah war would be far more dangerous today than the last time around | CNN (3)

An Israeli mobile artillery unit fires a 155mm shells across the Israeli-Lebanese border during the 2006 conflict.

Fire and blood

Early this year the same Reichman University, where Gantz spoke, put out a report entitled “Fire and blood: The chilling reality facing Israel in a war with Hezbollah.”It laid out a grim scenario in which the Iranian-allied group would fire 2,500 to 3,000 rockets and missiles a day for weeks targeting Israeli military sites as well as densely populated cities in thecenterof the country. In the entire 34-day warof2006Hezbollahis estimated to have fired around 4,000 rockets – a daily average of 117.

It may not amount to mutually assured destruction a la Cold War, but enough destruction will be wreaked on Israel and Lebanon to make it costly for both.

At6 a.m.onJuly 13, 2006 –less than 24 hours after the start of the war – Israeli warplanes bombed and knocked out Beirut’s Rafic Hariri International Airport. It’s widely expected that if war breaks out now the airport will be one of Israel’s targets. But unlike 2006, in 2024Hezbollahmay be able to hit Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion International Airport.

In 2006, Haifa, Israel’s third largest city, was in range ofHezbollah’smissiles. This time those missiles are expected to reach much deeper into Israel.

Shifting strategic balance

Looking across the Middle East, the strategic balance that for so longfavoredIsrael is changing.

Its foes are no longer corrupt and incompetent Arab regimes, but rather an array of non-state actors – fromHezbollahto Hamas to Islamic Jihad to the Houthis to militias in Iraq and Syria – in addition to Iran itself.

And because of US support for Israel, all of these players also have the US, andWesterninterests in the Middle East, in their crosshairs.US support wasunderscored by recent CNN reporting that Washington has assured Israel of its backing in the event of full-scale war withHezbollah.

In this 2014 file photo, the guided-missile cruiser USS Philippine Sea leaves Naval Station Mayport in Mayport, Florida. The USS Philippine Sea assisted in the rescue of the crew of the M/V Tutor, a civilian cargo ship struck by Houthi militants in the North Sea. One civilian mariner remains missing. Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Marcus L. Stanley/U.S. Navy/AP Related article US forces destroy Houthi radars in Yemen that allowed Iranian-backed group to target commercial ships, CENTCOM says

The Houthis in Yemen, once the epitome of a rag-tag tribal militia, are now, with Iran’s help, firing ballistic missiles toward Israel. The Houthis continue to target shipping in the Red Sea, despite the presence of a US-led armada off its shores.

The Iranian-backed militias in Iraq and Syria have largely held their fire since a series of US strikes in the aftermath of a drone attack killed three US soldiers in Jordan.

But that could change if Israel and Hezbollah go to war.

RecentlyQais Al-Khazali, the leader of the powerful Iranian-backed Iraqi militia Asa’ib Ahl Al-Haq, warned that if the US supports anIsraeliattack on Lebanon “then America should know that it will put all its interests in the region, particularly in Iraq, at risk and make them atarget.”

Throwing caution to the wind

And then there’s Iran.Traditionally Tehran lets others fight its fights and stays in the background, but that changed in April when, in retaliation for the Israeli strike on its diplomatic complex in Damascus, Tehran responded with a volley of hundreds of missiles and drones toward Israel.

In the eventHezbollah, Iran’s premier regional ally, its crown jewel, is attacked by Israel, and indeed is “taken apart” by Israel as Gantz threatened, an Iranian response is likely.

It could merely instruct its allies to throwcautionto the wind and fire at will at US interests and Israel. But then there’s this: Iran sits on theStraitof Hormuz, the entry point into the Persian Gulf. In the event of a major conflict, it has long been feared that Iran would block thestrait, a move that would send world oil prices skyrocketing.

SinceOctober,tensions on the Lebanon-Israel border have fluctuated. In the last few weeks, however, those tensions have escalated and war is looking ever more likely. The rhetoric on both sides is heating up. Germany, Sweden, Kuwait, the Netherlands and others are calling on their nationals to leave Lebanon immediately. If ever there was a danger of a regional war in the Middle East, that moment is now.

Why an Israel-Hezbollah war would be far more dangerous today than the last time around | CNN (2024)

FAQs

What is Hezbollah and why is it significant? ›

Hezbollah is a Shiite Muslim political party and militant group based in Lebanon, where its extensive security apparatus, political organization, and social services network have fostered its reputation as “a state within a state.” Founded in the chaos of the fifteen-year Lebanese Civil War, the Iran-backed group is ...

What is the war between Israel and Hezbollah? ›

Exchange of strikes between Israel and Lebanese militant group Hezbollah has been occurring along the Israel-Lebanon border and in Syria and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights since 8 October 2023.

What caused the war between Israel and Lebanon? ›

Recent News

2006 Lebanon War, a war between Israel and Hezbollah that began on July 12, 2006, and ended on August 14. Its proximate cause was a cross-border attack by Hezbollah fighters that culminated with the kidnapping of a pair of Israeli soldiers and the killing of eight others.

How did Hezbollah defeat Israel in 2006? ›

On 12 July 2006, Hezbollah fighters fired rockets at Israeli border towns as a diversion for an anti-tank missile attack on two armored Humvees patrolling the Israeli side of the border fence. The ambush left three soldiers dead. Two Israeli soldiers were captured and taken by Hezbollah to Lebanon.

Why is Hezbollah a threat to the United States? ›

OVERVIEW. Iraqi Shia militant group Kata'ib Hizballah (KH) poses a high threat to US diplomatic and military personnel in Iraq and Syria because of its access to areas with a US presence and its longstanding hostility toward US and allied forces, as demonstrated by its history of attacks and anti-American rhetoric.

Is Hezbollah stronger than Israel? ›

Though Hezbollah's light infantry and anti-tank squads are well-regarded, Hezbollah as a whole is "quantitatively and qualitatively" weaker than the IDF.

Is Hezbollah left or right? ›

It also declared it would protect all Lebanese communities, excluding those that collaborated with Israel, and support all national movements—both Muslim and non-Muslim—throughout the world. The ideology has since evolved, and today Hezbollah is a left-wing political entity focused on social injustice.

What is the terror of Hezbollah? ›

BACKGROUND. Formed in 1982 in response to the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, Hizballah (the “Party of God”), a Lebanon-based Shia terrorist group, advocates Shia empowerment globally.

Which event was a root cause of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? ›

The Arab-Israeli War of 1948 broke out when five Arab nations invaded territory in the former Palestinian mandate immediately following the announcement of the independence of the state of Israel on May 14, 1948.

Why does Hezbollah hate Israel? ›

Hezbollah views its conflict with Israel and the Jewish people as religiously motivated. The history of the Arab-Israeli conflict to them is a repeat of the negative interactions between the Jews of medieval Arabia and Muhammad and the early umma described in the Koran and other classical Islamic texts.

Why did Jews leave Israel? ›

During the Crisis of the Third Century, economic disruption and high taxation due to civil wars in the Roman Empire caused many Jews to migrate from the Land of Israel to Babylon under the more tolerant Persian Sassanid Empire, where an autonomous Jewish community existed in the area of Babylon.

What is the cause of Israel conflict? ›

The conflict has its origins in the rise of Zionism in Europe and the arrival of Jewish settlers to Ottoman Palestine in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The local Arab population opposed Zionism, primarily out of fear of territorial displacement and dispossession.

What does Hezbollah control? ›

Hezbollah is based in Lebanon and primarily operates in the Middle East, though it has conducted attacks elsewhere. Lebanon. According to U.S. government assessments, Hezbollah controls access to parts of Lebanon and operates inside the country with relative impunity.

How strong is the Hezbollah army? ›

The International Institute for Strategic Studies estimates Hezbollah forces to 600–1,000 active fighters (with 3,000–5,000 available and 10,000 reservists), 10,000–15,000 rockets of the Katyusha, Fajr-3 and Fajr-5 type. They also estimate a stockpile of 30 missiles of the Zelzal type.

Who attacked first Lebanon or Israel? ›

The 1982 Lebanon war began on 6 June 1982, when Israel invaded again for the purpose of attacking the Palestine Liberation Organization. The Israeli army laid siege to Beirut. During the conflict, according to Lebanese sources, between 15,000 and 20,000 people were killed, mostly civilians.

What is the meaning of Hezbollah flag? ›

The flag of Hezbollah is the flag of the Shi'a political and military organization Hezbollah. The flag depicts a stylized representation of the Arabic words حزب الله (ḥizbu-llāh, meaning "Party of Allah") in Kufic script.

Why did Israel invade Lebanon in 1978? ›

Its stated goals were to push Palestinian militant groups, particularly the PLO, away from the border with Israel, and to bolster Israel's ally at the time, the South Lebanon Army, because of the attacks against Lebanese Christians and Jews and because of the relentless shelling into northern Israel.

What is the relationship between Iran and Lebanon? ›

Hezbollah. Iran has been alleged to have founded and funded Hezbollah, a relationship that some say continues to this day in an apparent nexus with Syria. During the 2006 Lebanon War, between the state of Israel and Hezbollah, Iran came out in firm support of Hezbollah in particular, and Lebanon in general.

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